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Max Roytenberg

Max Roytenberg Finding Your Place

by Max Roytenberg, October 2013, Dublin, posted here Feb 25, 2014

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. It has been rumbling under surface, flashing in and out of my mind. I’ve needed time to digest the complexities, dealing with the past and present. It helps to know where you are, whether you are happy with your place or not.

Growing up in Winnipeg, Canada, I saw myself as tucked away in an obscure place, someone without consequence, doomed to live an obscure existence. No way was that an acceptable situation in my mind. In my view I was destined to accomplish important things. Why me? The question never arose. My fate was bound up with making a mark, an imprint on the wall of time, leaving evidence of my passing. I knew it. It was just a matter of getting on with it.

Early in my life I spent a year in Israel. It was a leadership training program to equip me with the capacity to acquaint young people regarding the heritage with which I was bequeathed, and the challenge the new state of Israel was presenting to Jewish people everywhere to contribute to its growth and development. (Israel’s Jewish population was about 700,000 at that time-it is now almost ten times as great, so the message was successfully transmitted.) Part of the time I spent there was on a kibbutz, a collective settlement. Life in these communities is seductive. All physical needs are provided for in return for the input one makes. No particular worry about the future, food, housing, health care provided for oneself and one’s family. I was contracted to return to the Diaspora, but the big issue for me, again, was my disappearance from sight if I made my life as member of one of these communities. What about my ambition to make an impact on the world? This was before we saw how the leadership for that country, time and again, was drawn from the talented people on these settlements.

I married early, and was early as a parent. Still in the throes of getting the education I saw as my ticket to a place in the world arena, I became obsessed with ensuring that nothing within my power to overcome would prevent me from fulfilling my destiny. Temporary economic difficulties would not deter me, despite the discomfort of my life-companions. I took on assignments in my crusade which kept me awake many a sleepless night with unspeakable fright, distracting me from the needs of those around me. I have travelled to most of the great cities, and the unseen corners, hobnobbed with the rich and famous, the helpless and the lost, the soon to be dead. With luck and some hard work, I did succeed in accomplishing things which assuaged in some measure the burning ambition which fuelled my drive. I did not become Alexander the Great, but perhaps I found a place as one of his junior lieutenants.

The lesson I am drawing from my experiences is one which I believe is a positive for those not tortured by the obsessions that have driven me. Without diminishing the contributions I may have made in my life which have redounded to the benefit of many who do not know my name, what I find, with the perspective of a more advanced age, is that the most rewarding elements of my life revolve around the products of living an ordinary life. It is my place as a husband, a father, a grandfather, a brother, a friend-these are those places that yield the most enduring pleasure. And these may, in the end, be the most valuable contribution I may make on this earth. This is where I may carve the most enduring mark. Isn’t that a contradiction of everything that drove me, that, in fact, deflected energies from what properly was my brightest prospect for immortality?

I have come to realize what is the place I should seek, am seeking. I am among the most fortunate of men. I am immersed in a warm bath fed by fresh streams of the joys of family and community. My place has no geography. Every minute of my life is an appreciation of my good fortune, and could be so for everyone whose eyes can be opened by the revelation that has come to mine. At last, I have found my place!


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